Random Recipe #6: How To Eat

It was easy choosing the book for this month’s Random Recipe challenge – all we had to do was pick our favourite title. Finding something in it that I hadn’t made before was slightly harder.
I first read Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat when visiting my sister in the UK in 1999. I was having a mid-twenties crisis and the flu – a bad combination – and my recovery involved a lot of lying on her sofa and reading. Looking back, perhaps Nigella had some impact on what happened next: I went to Italy, came home, applied for journalism school and got my own copy of the book, which has gone everywhere with me ever since (I bought another copy when we moved to London a few years later).

How To Eat predates the BBC commodification of Nigella into a finger-lickin’, satin dressing gown-wearing caricature. There are few pictures and none of her except a very Sophia Loren-esque author photo. But the writing is wonderful and the recipes are incredibly useful, whether you’re cooking for one or planning a long Sunday lunch. I never thought I’d have a use for the section on ‘feeding babies and small children’, but it was the only book-based information of its kind that I wasn’t disgusted by, even if I’ve yet to feed the Small Girl duck liver sauce. Yet.
When it was published the Daily Telegraph reviewer called How To Eat “the most valuable culinary guide published this decade”. Some 13 years later, I think that still holds true.

Hummus with seared lamb and toasted pine nuts
My copy of How To Eat falls open naturally at many well-thumbed pages so it took some turning to find something we hadn’t eaten before. Now I’ve discovered this I think we’ll be having it a lot.
In the book, Nigella devotes a lot of words to discussing the making of hummus – the soaking and cooking of chickpeas etc. Ignore this bit if you think making your own hummus is akin to kitchen slavery, but it really does taste better. AND, cooking your own chickpeas means you can use their cooking liquid to slacken the hummus instead of adding more oil. Don’t be tempted to use the brine from the tin – do as N suggests and dollop in a bit of Greek yoghurt instead.
For the lamb, she suggests using lamb noisettes, cut into little rags and tatters, but I used lamb rumps, sliced into 2cm steaks and quickly fried (it was such nice meat, I didn’t want to tear it up).
You can find her updated version of the recipe here – essentially it’s just a case of, a) make hummus, b) toast pinenuts, c) sear lamb, d) dollop hummus on plate, add lamb, sprinkle with pinenuts and chopped parsley. Over-achiever that I am, I also made some flatbreads to go with it, but you could just as easily use bought ones. It’s just that I like a sprinkle of smugness with my dinner, don’t you?



  1. July 25, 2011 / 7:30 pm

    Oh I so have to buy this book now. I have "How to be a Domestic Goddess" and I love it. I actually just made Nigella's peanut butter hummus on the weekend and it was delicious too. Served equally smuggly with toasty fresh homemade flatbread. LOVE your style! x

  2. July 25, 2011 / 7:51 pm

    Oh man … that's the sound of another deadline wooshing by me ;0(
    Great pick for your fave book though, reckon that would be pretty close to the top of my list too!

  3. July 25, 2011 / 9:19 pm

    I love this book too. Such great read. The lamb looks utterly delicious. I really need to cook, eat and post my entry for this month's challenge…

  4. July 25, 2011 / 9:59 pm

    Thanks the reminder about this book. It's been sitting on my top shelf being ignored for some time and I don't really know why. Skimming through it now, it feels like a different era and a different Nigella. Could we have ever been so young (or in my case middle-aged)?

  5. July 26, 2011 / 3:04 am

    I keep looking in second hand bookshops for How to eat and Domestic Goddess. They are never in there! Might have to cave in and buy new ones…
    thanks for these lovely recipes

  6. July 26, 2011 / 4:28 am

    Heavenly Ingredients – I got my second copy of How To Eat at a church jumble sale for 20p – there will be a copy out there for you! Otherwise, there's always The Book Depository, or Amazon…

  7. July 26, 2011 / 8:49 am

    I love this book! I think her writing is sophisticated and truthful…especially in How to Eat. Your lamb looks gorgeous! What a great combination…Nigella never fails! 🙂

  8. July 26, 2011 / 10:41 am

    Easily one of my favourite books of any genre 🙂 I've tried this hummus recipe a couple of times, for all that she moves into more streamlined styles of cooking later on, it really isn't that much of a hassle to do the beans from scratch and it really does taste amazing. A little smugness with dinner is not a bad thing!

  9. July 26, 2011 / 12:03 pm

    This dish looks gorgeous. It looks so easy and I often make my own houmous so there's no reason not to. I'm a big Nigella fan but I've never actually used this book so I will definitely look out for it.

  10. July 26, 2011 / 7:45 pm

    what a lovely write-up of what is clearly your favourite book, it's so nice to read about your passions for this book and a little bit of history too… I really like this book too and often refer back to it when I need a good meal for a dinner party… that lamb looks stunning… thanks so much for taking part x

  11. July 26, 2011 / 8:18 pm

    Hiya Lucy! Great recipe! This is one of my favourite cookbooks too- infact if I've nothing else on the go I'll often take this to bed to read with me at night, as though a favourite novel and have sweet, sweet dreams all night long! Thank you also for visiting my blog and for your lovely, lovely comments, Kate

  12. July 26, 2011 / 11:37 pm

    Ginny Grant put me onto this book – she brought it back from the UK years ago, and when she moved out of our flat, I HAD to have it in the house. Beside reading, plus staples galore …

  13. July 27, 2011 / 2:12 pm

    Oh I totally agree that home made hummous is much better than any bought stuff! Weirdly, it's only fairly recently that I picked up a copy of this book and I can really see why so many people love it so much. It's beautifully written and full of so many ideas, no wonder it's got so many fans, I absolutely love it 🙂

  14. July 30, 2011 / 12:18 am

    Funnily enough, this book just doesn't do it for me – I ended up giving my copy away! Steak and hummus though – simple and delicious. And so funny about Nigella become a caricature – I have such mixed feelings about her!

  15. July 30, 2011 / 10:17 pm

    I ought to get my copy down from the shelf. I rarely cook from my Nigella books, but I'm not sure why – I certainly enjoy reading them! Thanks for the reminder!

    And yes, a little smugness with dinner is always a good thing!

  16. August 10, 2011 / 12:29 am

    Glad to hear you agree that How to Eat is one of the best foodie books around – Nigella is a terrific writer and more appealing and authoritative than her TV persona. Her tip about using 00 flour for macaroni cheese is genius.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *